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By Peter Mothiba


Flamboyant Mamelodi Sundowns coach Rhulani Mokwena must admit that Orlando Pirates is his hoodoo team.

You can rouse Orlando Pirates players from sleep right now and tell them to go and play against Sundowns and they will beat it, come rain or shine.

Football enthusiasts will attest to the fact that every team has its hoodoo team.

A hoodoo team is one that you just can’t beat irrespective of the quality that one has at their disposal.

This is a kind of team that may lose a hundred matches before playing against your team but come match da against your team, the players of such a team will rise to the occasion and the gods of football will smile and nod their heads in their favour, while sneering at your team’s efforts to win.

Against a hoodoo team you miss penalties, you make defensive errors and ultimately you get punished.

Back in the 1980’s there was a team called Durban African Wanderers which was a struggling, lacklustre team but would easily beat the then unbeatable Kaizer Chiefs easily on any given day.

Pirates is Sundowns’ hoodoo team in that it first kicked the Brazilians out of the MTN 8 semifinals in Polokwane in October 2022, with the awe-inspiring Monnapula Saleng playing a crucial role in destroying the Brazilians, then beat Sundowns in the MTN 8 final in October 2023 and beating it again in the Nedbank final this past Saturday.

My observation of coach Rhulani Mokwena’s approach for last Saturday’s cup final match is that he was too defensive.

His plan was to score first then park the proverbial bus.

Indeed, Sundowns managed to score first but Pirates retaliated with fierce determination to equalise and also score the match- winning goal, courtesy of young dribbling wizard Relebohile Mofokeng.

Coach Rhulani played with four defensive midfielders with no real creativity in the Sundowns midfield and that was his downfall.

This is why talented Pirates’ inventive midfielder Tito Maswanganyi “bossed” the midfield with nice dribbling skills and fancy passes.

All that the Sundowns midfielders could do was to chase shadows as Orlando Pirates, like the sea robbers of yore, went for the loot.

The likes of Marcello Allende, Mokoena,Bongani ” Ben Ten” Zungu and Bathusi Aubaas are essentially defensive midfielders and coach Rhulani thought he would get away with it by using these sorts of players to defend the 1 goal lead, but it was not to be.

17-year-old Sundown’s prodigy Siyabonga Mabena, who was benched by Rhulani for the Cup Final match, surely watched in envy as young 19-year-old Pirates star Relebohile Mofokeng made a name for himself by out-dribbling the hapless “Ben Ten” Zungu cheekily before slotting home the match-winning goal.

What I have realised about Sundowns is that though they are an expensive and experienced outfit, they and their coach Rhulani don’t have what in football terminology is called big match temperament.

They are comfortable playing League games against teams like Richards Bay, Golden Arrows, Royal AM and the now out-of-sorts Kaizer Chiefs, but they get stage fright when faced with teams like the marauding sea robbers Orlando Pirates in a crucial cup final match.

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